18 wild Asian elephants found dead in remote protected forests in India
Indian authorities launched an investigation into the deaths of at least 18 elephants on Friday after a senior conservationist cast doubts that the animals were killed by lightning, which government officials cited as likely.
The dead herd was found Thursday in the hilly Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest in the remote northeastern Indian state of Assam.
Forest officials and a local lawmaker, Jitu Goswami, told Agence France-Presse they believed the elephants died after lightning struck the forest.
However, prominent conservationist Soumyadeep Datta of environmental activist group Nature’s Beckon said it was unlikely based on social media images.
“Poisoning could be behind the death of the elephants,” Datta told AFP. “We have to wait for the autopsy report that the forest department will do soon.”
A team of veterinarians and officials were on site on Friday, along with Parimal Shuklabaidya, Assam’s forest and environment minister.
Almost 30,000 elephants live in India, around 60 percent of the wild Asian elephant population.
In recent years, there have been more and more cases of elephants being killed by locals – and vice versa – as people continued to enter forest areas.